Long before he co-founded the legendary furniture design collective Droog, Dutch designer Gijs Bakker was making avant-garde jewellery with fellow artist and life partner Emmy van Leersum. In 1967, they presented their pieces at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk museum, and the exhibition was unlike anything the world had ever seen. They rejected the refined use of precious metals found in haute couture and the folk aesthetic of handcrafted jewellery, and instead deployed everyday materials such as aluminum and nylon as the basis for oversized, geometric body adornments that combined elements of fashion, pop art and design.
Among the pieces, which were unveiled during a one-time spectacle entitled Edelsmeden 3, were Bakker’s Stovepipe necklace and bracelet, which re-imagined the lines of a jointed flue as futuristic silver tubing. Meanwhile, a mirrored collar, more sculptural than practical, completely encased a model’s neck. “This show launched Gijs and Emmy as pioneers in their field,” says curator Marjan Boot. “The futuristic garments, large aluminum necklaces, the styling of the models and the fashion show element featuring electronic music, spotlights, and rhythmical movements propelled them to the vanguard of youth culture.”
Bakker and van Leersum followed the event a few years later with a second exhibition, Kledingsuggesties or “clothing suggestions”, which combined jewellery and garments into integrated outfits that created a “total look,” in the words of the designers. Bakker’s nylon rings and van Leersum’s hardened prosthetics were incorporated into cutting-edge stretch fabrics for a unified whole – a wearable piece of contemporary sculpture that broke away from the expected, liberated from the traditions of the time.
For the exhibition The Gijs+Emmy Spectacle: Fashion and Jewelry design by Gijs Bakker and Emmy van Leersum 1967-1972, on at the Stedelijk until August 24th, curator Marjan Boot has reassembled the pivotal pieces from Edelsmeden 3 and Kledingsuggesties. Bakker consulted on the show, which revives this era in his prolific career and honours van Leersum, who died in 1984. It displays five of their original costumes and two recreations poised on a catwalk. Flanking them are additional Edelsmeden 3 originals, complemented by a video incorporating backstage images and pre-show audio recordings.